Dignity Canada Dignité
Once again the hateful and outspoken bishop of Calgary (backgrounder: And he calls himself a Christian) calls upon Canadian Catholics to "curtail the gradual acceptance of homosexuality".

Here is Dignity's response to Bishop Henry's pastoral letter. We have already seen Bishop Henry's automated replies to critics that he is "simply proclaiming the gospel" so I have chosen to address the bishop's superiors. The letter was copied to Bishop Henry, to the Holy Father, to the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, and many Canadian newspapers.

The Most Reverend Archbishop Brendan O’Brien                    President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

2500 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2

cecc@cccb.ca                              January 19, 2005

Your Excellency,

We gay and lesbian Catholics of Canada are hurt, embarrassed and outraged by Bishop Henry's recent remarks about us. As you are well aware Bishop Henry is unrepentant in the face of a "blizzard of criticism" from Canadians of all faiths, and he insists that in his pastoral letter he is "simply proclaiming the gospel" when he calls upon the government of Canada to "use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail [homosexuality] in the interests of the common good".
It should be the duty of the CCCB to either clarify to which Gospel passages Bishop Henry refers, or to publicly correct his scriptural error.
The position of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops on equal marriage for gays and lesbians is well known: the CCCB would impose Catholic doctrine on Canadians of all faiths when it enters the secular arena to oppose civil marriage for same-sex couples. Religious leaders have a right to weigh in on this issue and that debate continues. However Bishop Henry has strayed too far from Christ's teachings and even from Catholic doctrine when he links homosexuals with adulterers, prostitutes and pornographers.
Catholic doctrine does not approve of our loving relationships, but it does recognize that "homosexual persons" exist and in the words of your American counterparts in their 1997 pastoral letter, "homosexual brothers and sisters, though at times you may feel discouraged, hurt or angry, do not walk away from your families, from the Christian community, from all those who love you. In you God's love is revealed. You are always our children."
We the organization of gay and lesbian Catholics in Canada once again reach out to our church leadership for dialogue about the issues that face us as a faith community, and in the light of Bishop Henry's controversial remarks, call for a definitive statement of reprimand and repudiation of this misguided shepherd's pastoral letter which serves only to inflame prejudice and sow seeds of hatred. 
Norman Prince, President
Dignity Canada Dignité
State has a duty to suppress public expressions of homosexuality, says Catholic Bishop
Edmoonton Sun, January 16, 2005
CALGARY -- Comparing homosexuality to adultery, prostitution and pornography, Calgary's outspoken Catholic bishop is calling on his flock to resist the same-sex marriage movement, adding the state has a duty to suppress public expressions of homosexuality. In a pastoral letter, Bishop Frederick Henry says the same-sex marriage movement is seeking to bring homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, if reluctant, acceptance by the general community.

"Marriage and the family are the foundations of society, through which children are brought into this world and nurtured as they grow to adulthood," says Henry in his letter.

"Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the state must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good."

The letter, to be read to southern Alberta's quarter-million Catholics in their churches this weekend, has angered Calgary's gay and lesbian community, with one gay activist calling Henry a fascist.


"I mean that quite sincerely," said Stephen Lock, Calgary representative of the Canadians for Equal Marriage Coalition. "How dare he? This is supposed to be a good Christian?"

Lock called the letter hateful.

In an interview, Henry said society has a right to reject something that is abnormal.

He insisted marriage is not a matter of rights, but of biological and psychological fact. He said two individuals of the same sex will never be able to marry because it is an insurmountable biological impossibility.

"The reality is, some people have same-sex attractions. And homosexual people, of course, have rights that must be respected, like employment rights, housing rights, pension rights.

"But we can't endorse homosexual activity or the lifestyle as normative. Society is within its rights to say 'no,' this is unacceptable behaviour."

Lock, however, rejected Henry's assertion that same-sex marriage threatens the institution of marriage and the family.

"This doesn't take away anybody else's rights whatsoever," he said. "Heterosexual couples will still have the right to marry and have children. And gay couples will have the right to marry and have children."

Toronto Globe and Mail

The Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary has brought on a blizzard of criticism and hate mail by sending out a pastoral letter to his flock arguing that the state must use its coercive power either to proscribe or to curtail homosexuality in society's interests.

Bishop Fred Henry's words were called horrifying and un-Canadian by the head of a Christian homosexual organization. The Anglican bishop of Calgary said he had "a great deal of difficulty" with his Catholic counterpart's choice of language, and academic theologians said Bishop Henry had not made a wise choice of words.

Which, in fact, was a conclusion Bishop Henry arrived at himself. In an interview late yesterday afternoon, he said if he was rewriting the letter, he would not talk about unleashing the "coercive power" of the state.

What he had attempted to say was misunderstood, he said. "You should see some of the hate mail I'm getting right now. . . . I'm just amazed."

Bishop Henry, in his letter, abruptly linked homosexuality with adultery, prostitution and pornography as human acts that undermine the foundation of the family, and argued for "the state . . . [to] use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good."

He also appeared to challenge the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau's famous dictum that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

"It is sometimes argued that what we do in the privacy of our home is nobody's business," the bishop wrote.

"While the privacy of the home is undoubtedly sacred, it is not absolute. Furthermore, an evil act remains an evil act whether it is performed in public or in private." In the interview, he said his only point in tying homosexuality together with adultery, prostitution and pornography was to stress that all of them, in common, undermine the fundamental status that marriage ought to have.

He said that what he meant by the coercive power of the state was that the government should not be endorsing events such as Gay Pride Week and treating sex in bathhouses as private when it's public. And he insisted he wasn't advocating "a bedroom police force. That's ridiculous."

However Bishop Henry, who has marched many times where angels fear to tread — whacking prime ministers and governments for, in his view, violating the laws of God — said of himself: "There aren't many people who stand up and say, 'I'm tired of political correctness.' And because I'm tired of it, don't try to silence me every time I open my mouth by telling me I'm a hatemonger. Because I'm not. I'm just trying to speak the truth as I see it, and I should be accorded the freedom to express my opinions and try to influence people to see things as I see them."

Calgary's Anglican bishop, Barry Hollowell, asked who gets to define the nature of the common good, and said the use of the state's coercive force rarely produces a common good.

Chris Ambidge of Toronto, spokesman for the gay Christian organization Integrity Canada, said Bishop Henry's comments were "completely inappropriate."

"I am horrified he would use a phrase like 'coercive power,' " Mr. Ambidge said. "It's completely un-Canadian."

Stephen Locke, with Canadians for Equal Marriage, says Henry is asking the state to suppress a segment of the population.

"I have some really strong issues with that. That's calling for the institution of some sort of police state. That's very problematic," Locke said. "It's a total demonizing of homosexuals and homosexuality, and it's not very nice from our point of view."

"It's a sad day for gay and lesbian Catholics when a Canadian Catholic bishop describes our relationships as evil," said Helen Kennedy, spokesperson for Challenge the Church, a Catholic dissident group, said in a statement.

backgrounder: "And he calls himself a Christian"

Pastoral Letter of Bishop F. B. Henry, Bishop of Calgary - January, 2005

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Many assume that we are powerless, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been invoked and the Supreme Court has spoken and settled the same-sex issue. However, such an assumption is erroneous. The Supreme Court has said that Parliament may redefine marriage, it has not said that it must redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. The Supreme Court Justices talk about reading the Constitution,“expansively,” and that it is like a “living tree which by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life.”

Nevertheless, I would suggest that there are more roots to the tree than simply the Charter of Rights and Freedom. There are also historical, cultural, philosophical, moral, and anthropological roots. The failure to attend to the health of all the roots runs the risk of killing the tree and destroying the public good.

Contrary to what is normally alleged, the primary goals in seeking legalization of same-sex “marriage” are not the financial or health or inheritance or pension benefits associated with marriage. The search for stability and exclusivity in a homosexual relationship is not the driving force. The principal objective in seeking same-sex “marriage”is not really even about equality rights. The goal is to acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society’s rejection of homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance.

It is significant to note that 18 months after same-sex “marriage” arrived in Canada (principally as a result of court decisions in Ontario and British Columbia), more than 95% of adult Canadian gays have chosen to ignore their new legal right.

The Supreme Court also refused to answer whether the Charter requires that marriage be redefined.

As Catholics we hold marriage to be a sacrament, a sacred covenant in which husband and wife express their mutual love, and join with God in the creation of a new human person, destined for eternal life.

However, without recourse to the sacramental reality and without reliance on a multitude of quotes from Scared Scripture, we find ourselves sharing basic common ground with the majority of Canadians who understand marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, faithful in love and open to the gift of life. Marriage and the family are the foundations of society, through which children are brought into this world and nurtured as they grow to adulthood. As such, the family is a more fundamental social institution than the state, and the strength of the family is vital for the well-being of our whole society.

Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.

It is sometimes argued that what we do in the privacy of our home is nobody’ s business. While the privacy of the home is undoubtedly sacred, it is not absolute. Furthermore, an evil act remains an evil act whether it is performed in public or in private.

Personal choice is exercised both in opting for the marital state and in the choice of one’s spouse. However, the future spouses are not free to alter marriage’s essential purpose or properties. These do not depend on the will or the sexual orientation of the contracting parties. They are rooted in natural law and do not change.

The committed union of two people of the same sex is not the same human reality as the committed union of one man and one woman. A same-sex union is not a physical union that transmits human life, producing children. A same-sex union is not the joining of two complementary natures that complete each other. Simply stated, a same sex union is not marriage. The idea that homosexuals can create same sex “marriage” through their individual choice is false. All the packaging in the world doesn’t alter substance.

Some would allege that opposing same-sex “marriage” is pure prejudice. This contention is also false. There are human rights laws, which say: men and women must be paid the same wage for the same work; an employer may not refuse to hire someone because of the skin colour; landlords may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. These decision uphold the rights of the individual and, at the same time, strengthen Canadian society. They encourage us to recognize the humanity of the other person.

Furthermore, a man and a woman wanting to marry may be completely different in their characteristics such as: colour, ethnicity, in wealth and social status, physical attributes, and educational background. None of these differences are insurmountable obstacles to marriage. The two individuals are still a man and a woman, and the requirements of nature are respected. Two individual of the same sex, regardless of their race, wealth, stature, erudition or fame, will never be able to marry because of an insurmountable biological impossibility.

The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to same-sex couples is not discrimination. It is not something opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires such an opposition.

It is the right and the responsibility of all citizens who are troubled by the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage, to enter into the debate and, with clarity and charity, to make their voices heard by their fellow citizens and our political leaders.

Please take the time to write, email and/or fax government leaders and your local member of parliament registering your objection to the proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary

Bishop Fred HenryBishop faces human rights complaints
March 31, 2005

CALGARY (Canadian Press) - Faced with human rights complaints, Calgary's outspoken Roman Catholic bishop says he will not be bullied into changing his views against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Bishop Fred Henry wrote a pastoral letter to his parishioners last January condemning same-sex marriage. A column based on the letter was also published in the Calgary Sun newspaper. "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to . . . curtail them in the interests of the common good," Henry wrote.

The letter and column prompted two complaints against Henry to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

A defiant Henry called a news conference Wednesday to respond to the complaints.

Henry said his rights to freedom of religion and free speech have been violated.

"Those that support same-sex marriage want to shut the churches out of this important debate," the bishop said.

"Those who favour same-sex marriage have been given a full opportunity to state their views on the issue. But now they are saying anyone who speaks out against same-sex marriage is discriminating against homosexuals."

In her complaint, Carol Johnson of Calgary said she was alarmed by Henry's remarks.

"I believe the publication of Bishop Henry's letter is likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt," wrote Johnson.

"These remarks are particularly dangerous when made by a person in a position of trust and authority."

A second complaint from Norman Greenfield was received by both Henry and the commission on Tuesday.

Stephen Lock, regional director of Egale Canada, a gay rights lobby group, said he doesn't dispute that Henry has an obligation to represent the views of his church, including on same-sex marriage.

But Lock said lumping homosexuality in with things like pornography and prostitution is going too far.

"When anyone starts calling for the coercive power of the State to suppress or curtail any legal activity, that's really oppressive to be saying stuff like that," Lock said.

Henry said while he expected there would be complaints about his position, he is disappointed Alberta's human rights commission didn't dismiss them immediately.

"I assumed that the one who fields this would have looked at this and said this doesn't stand. This is not an Ernst Zundel case by any means," said Henry. "We cannot give credence to this."

The outspoken bishop is no stranger to controversy. He sent a letter to his Calgary parishes during the last federal election campaign, declaring that Prime Minister Paul Martin was a bad Catholic for supporting same-sex marriage.

It could take a year for the complaints against Henry to work their way through the Alberta Human Rights Commission, said Marie Riddle, the agency's director.

Henry said he will fight the complaint to the end.

"My time is pretty valuable and I'm not going to go through a Mickey Mouse procedure with no hope of success," he said.

Other anti same-sex marriage groups were rallying behind Henry.

Focus on the Family, a Christian group based in British Columbia, said it's troubling that Henry has become the subject of human rights complaints.

Churches and religious groups need to be able to talk about issues like homosexuality and same-sex marriage without being muzzled, said Derek Rogusky, one of the group's spokesmen.

"We're talking about changing something that's a foundational institution of our society, we're not talking about changing the speed limit on the street," he said from Langley, B.C.

"If anyone is successful in bringing charges against Bishop Henry, the would come after other organizations. It shows that religious freedom protections that the government talks about really aren't there."

And he calls himself a Christian

Globe and Mail
June 13, 2004

It was probably inevitable sooner or later that the Roman Catholic Church would wade into the federal election on the issues of abortion and gay rights. So Bishop Fred Henry has now jumped in to the fray with both feet in his mouth.

The Bishop of Calgary has issued an open letter and spoken on national media accusing Prime Minister Paul Martin of being a "source of scandal" by failing to adhere to Catholic teaching in all his decisions. For a prime minister, this amounts to taking direction for the nation from its Catholic bishops.

To this Catholic at least, it is not Paul Martin but Bishop Henry himself who is the source of scandal on at least two counts. First, he has overplayed his role as a Catholic bishop. Then he has overstated his competence in the two areas he singles out: abortion and gay marriage.

Bishop Henry implies that the platform of Catholic politicians must be subject to the approval of the church and the politicians must interject Catholic dogma into the national discourse. It has taken the church hundreds of years to recognize the rightful independence of the secular democratic state, and Bishop Henry's mentor, Pope John Paul II, has worked assiduously to reclaim the church's power over the state. But the secular horse has bolted and it's too late to claw back the French Revolution and restore society to the church's stable.

Bishop Henry excoriates Paul Martin for "moral incoherence." This is not the first time that he has used a bully pulpit to make personal attacks on Catholic politicians, and it's always women and sex that set off these tirades. One would hope that a pastor would refrain from public ad hominem attacks on individual Catholics. One would also hope that his pronouncements would reflect a balanced understanding of Catholic teaching.

What about war? There's an issue that's equally prominent in Catholic teaching. Where was Bishop Henry's condemnation of conservative Catholic politicians who supported the Americans in what the Pope himself condemned as an unjust invasion of Iraq?

But the bishop appears woefully ignorant of the Catholic teaching on the primacy of conscience and the very specific church teaching on the rightful independence of the laity in public life. "Priests," according the Second Vatican Council, "must have an unfailing respect for the just liberty which belongs to everyone in civil society. They should be willing to listen to lay people, and recognize their experience and competence in different fields of human activity ....."

One cannot but question whether celibate men, unburdened with the stress of providing food and housing for themselves or their children, have the competence to understand the complexities of the decisions women make on abortion. The Canadian Parliament, at least up until now, has respected the right of women to follow their conscience.

And given the contradictory statements from the Vatican about whether or not to ordain gay men to the priesthood, there is plenty of "moral incoherence" on gay issues within the Catholic priesthood. Bishop Henry would do well to consult with gay Catholic couples about how to live out a morally coherent gay commitment.

The Vatican's directive to priests to respect the judgment of laity comes from its highest level of authority: an ecumenical council. It continues in an even more remarkable vein. "The priest has the task of bringing about agreement among different outlooks in such a way that no one may feel a stranger in the Christian community."

Bishop Henry fails to acknowledge the Catholic community is divided over abortion and gay marriage. Adherence to the hierarchy's instructions on sexual matters is also at an all-time low in the church. And in a community still reeling from the effects of the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by the clergy, a little humility would go a long way to restoring the credibility gap the bishops have created by their own scandalous behaviour.

So here's some advice from this Catholic lay woman to Bishop Fred Henry. Stop issuing public condemnations about the conscientious decisions of individual Catholic politicians. Put your own house in order before you preach to the rest of the world. Have a little more compassion for politicians who are trying to make this complex and pluralistic society work, while respecting the rights of all its citizens. And don't speaking out on areas beyond your competence before consulting those who have more experience in the issues.

Joanna Manning is an award-winning Catholic teacher and writer.

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.